How depression can negatively affect cognitive function

How depression can negatively affect cognitive function

People with depression or anxiety will have an increased risk of reduced cognitive function due to the advanced speed with which the brain ages, according to a new study from psychologists at the University of Sussex, UK.

Evidence already exists which has found that people with depression or anxiety are at risk of developing dementia later in life. However, this new study is the first which provides comprehensive evidence for the effect of depression on decline in overall cognitive function.

The study, published today (24 May), comprised a review of 34 longitudinal studies which focused on depression and anxiety’s link with decline in cognitive function.

Greater awareness to protect the brain

Results of the study showed that people with depression experienced a greater decline of cognitive function as older adults than those without depression.

One of the lead authors of the paper, Dr Darya Gaysina from the University of Sussex, commented: “This study is of great importance – our populations are ageing at a rapid rate and the number of people living with decreasing cognitive abilities and dementia is expected to grow substantially over the next 30 years.

“Our findings should give the government even more reason to take mental health issues seriously and to ensure that health provisions are properly resourced. We need to protect the mental wellbeing of our older adults and to provide robust support services to those experiencing depression and anxiety in order to safeguard brain function in later life.”

Taking preventative measures

Amber John, the other lead author of the study who carried out this research for her PhD, added: “Depression is a common mental health problem – each year, at least one in five people in the UK experience symptoms.

“But people living with depression shouldn’t despair – it’s not inevitable that you will see a greater decline in cognitive abilities, and taking preventative measures such as exercising, practising mindfulness and undertaking recommended therapeutic treatments, such as cognitive behaviour therapy, have all been shown to be helpful in supporting wellbeing, which in turn may help to protect cognitive health in older age.”

Source: University of Sussex

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